Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Floppy-Eared Bunny

I have a confession.  Several weeks ago I had a blog post ruminating around in my brain and I REALLY was going to sit down and write it.  However.  Prior to this bright lovely day of a new post in the works, I was contacted by a woman who publishes a local magazine here in town.  She was interested in having me contribute so we made an appointment to meet---which was the same morning of The Post That Was To Be.  When we met, I was concerned what she was looking for wasn't really my style so I brought up that concern.  She said, "Well, then why don't you share with me what your style is."  So I told her about the post that I had knocking around in my head and she said, "I love it! I want that for the next publication!"  So, the good news, I got myself a writing gig, the bad news, I'm still a lousy blogger.

This morning the 6 year old reduced me to tears in a matter of seconds.  Yesterday he had me laughing for a good 20 minutes after he noted that all J did at school was "watch another class all day."
J's program is telecast from Charlotte so, he was telling that truth.

This morning.  Avee's friend spent the night and at the breakfast table the kids were talking about family coming to visit, where they've lived, etc. When Avee's friend explained that her great aunt was visiting, that it was an aunt, not her grandma, Danyo responded in his cherubic, matter-of-fact way, "My grandma died.  She used to give me stuffed animals (this is Danyo's love language through and through).  One time she gave me a fluffy, fluffy bunny.  Then she died."

At first I was touched at his sweet remembrance of her.  Then he mentioned the bunny and tears started falling uncontrollably.   Of course he ended his commentary in the way only Danyo does.  "Then she died."

My mom was on hospice and mostly bedridden but she really wanted her room decluttered as she knew people would be coming to visit her.  I sat on her bedroom floor while 6 week old AJ curled up on my mom's bed, camouflaged in her pink sleepers with my Mom's pink bedding.  She lived and died in pink.  That was one of the many tender and thoughtful things my sister did for her that no other would have.  Before my mom had even been discharged from the hospital for the last time, Sara sent me to Target to get her bright pink sheets for her hospital bed at home.

My mom had a couple of side tables against one wall of her room that she covered with tablecloths and underneath them was a treasure trove!  I pulled out shoes, jewelry, scarves, stuffed animals, treasure boxes, blank cards, baked beans, vitamins, V8 cans, plastic bags, and dozens of other things.  It was so very her and that one small part of her room took me all day to sift through.

At one point I pulled out a cute little floppy-eared bunny, about the size of my hand and asked her where it came from.  She said, "Oh, I just get cute little things like that when I see them to give away, do you think Danyo would like that?"  I told her I was sure he'd love it, but I'd like her to give it to him, because that kind of stuff matters to him.

I tossed it onto her bed where she was sitting upright and left to get Danyo.  I pictured her saying something like, "I have this little bunny for you Danyo because I know how much you like stuffed animals" or some other simple and sweet statement.

When we walked back into the room, the bunny was nowhere to be seen.  She just started telling Danyo a story, and as she spoke she pulled back one small piece of her blanket, and then another, and then another.  She spoke in her customary serious tone but with lots of inflection.  I don't even remember the words, but watched as layer after layer was lifted as she spoke.  I imagine Danyo was wondering why he'd been pulled away from his cousins to hear some random story from Grandma. Finally, when she got to her punchline the bunny peeked out at Danyo, to his pure delight.

I admired so much about my mom.  She had a gift like no other when it came to children.  She could engage, delight, entrance, encourage, educate, and understand a child like no other.  Of all the things I miss, watching her interact with my children is what I miss the most.  She would be teaching Bo Shakespeare and poetry, she would be challenging Avee with spelling words and math problems and praising her ingenuity.  She would be kissing Danyo nonstop and would be shameless about the trail of pink lips she'd inevitably leave.  She would be laughing and delighting in AJ's self-expression and sweet hugs and exploration of new words.  I like to think she is now.  Some days I just wish I could see it myself.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


This time I mean it.  I'm bringing blogging back.  At night when I tuck in Avee and Danyo, they beg me to tell them stories of "when they were kids".  So cute.  I realized the only stories I can share are the ones I remember because I blogged about it.  Danyo has so many fewer stories and AJ has none.  So, here I am, blogging again.

I started a new job today.  I can't be sure, but I think it might be the best job on the planet.  That's saying something since I really REALLY loved the last place I worked.  It's totally flexible so I can easily work around any kid things that arise and that is worth it's weight in gold.  But also, just the work itself (mediation) is interesting and rewarding.

When we first moved here Jay said he had a running track of "I think I'm gonna like it here" a la Little Orphan Annie going through his head on repeat.  I mean, most 35 year old men respond to a positive life change like that, right?  Well, that was running through my head all morning as I was getting training and meeting my co-workers.

It was a big day of firsts.  I also dropped AJ off at "preschool" and had to tear myself away from a crying baby.  I have been on the other end of those drop offs and I KNOW those kids are okay and the crying stops very quickly.  But walking away from it, aaaaaauuuuuugh!! Torture.  I sat with her for a few minutes but that girl has got my number.  I tried to peel her away from me and she demands a hug, "Cug! Cuuuuug!"  I canNOT resist that.  But I had to.  "I'm sorry I'm late on my first day of work, my baby needed cuuuugs."

When I picked up AJ her teacher came out and said she had a great day and that she had asked to go to the bathroom and then did.  Excuse me?  I asked if they had a weekend program.  This little girl is working us making us change diapers and then going to school and acting all potty trained.

I worked a job for the last 3 months at a local boarding school.  It's probably the most poorly run "business" I have ever been a part of.  I hated it. Like, loudly, regularly, and passionately hated it.  I have never been more happy to quit a job.  Out of the blue the other day, Danyo approached me and said, "Why do you hate your job so much?"  A dozen inappropriate responses passed through my mind and I maturely filtered.  I answered, "I just really don't like how the place is managed or the people I work with."  Danyo leaned in with his eyebrows raised and a little more wisdom than a 6 year old should have and said, "But the money."  Exactly.  But the money.  That is why I go back no matter how badly I don't want to.

Danyo is this fascinating combination of oblivious and deeply insightful and articulate.  It's hilarious when the oblivious shows up and astounding every.single.time the insightful and articulate come out.  Example of the oblivious:  He is in a Spanish immersion kindergarten.  He came home from school about a month after he got into that class and announced that he'd watched "The Magic School Bus" at school.  I was curious if the show was done in Spanish or English, and so I asked.  He paused for a couple of minutes in deep thought and then said, "What is it I'm speaking right now?"  We all laughed and let him know he was speaking English. "Oh, it was in English then."

Or he'll be in another room and we won't even be aware of his proximity.  I say something like, "It's just about feeling insecure, I can handle it."  And then we hear, "You don't have to feel insecure if you don't want to, Mom."  Those are my favorites, to be reminded he hears EVERYTHING I say.

Bo recently finished performing in a two and a half week production of "A Christmas Story" at the local playhouse. The theater is kind of a big deal in this region and it was pretty cool he got in on it, right after we moved here.  He wanted to be the kid who got his tongue stuck to the pole, that's all he cared about, so that's who he auditioned for, and that's who he was.  He's a pretty good little actor. It was really fun to watch him be a part of something so cool.  Those kids (there were 9 of them, almost all about 10 yrs old) worked HARD.  Bo came home from rehearsals and performances on cloud nine.  J and I loved seeing him so happy and to have found a niche he so completely loved.

Right now he's obsessed with Les Miserables.  It's something else.  He's determined to read the Victor Hugo book because "grown ups will totally think that's cool".  We've tried to talk him out of it (what is wrong with us!?) but he is determined.  Bo is going to be something great, despite us. I love that kid.  He is curious and interesting and sociable and knows how to talk to anyone.  I like that.

Avee is living the good life in 3rd grade.  She is so obviously the teacher's pet, but she doesn't know that.  I love that about her.  She is just doing what she's doing and people can hate or adore, it doesn't change who she is.  I can't even begin to tell you how proud I am to be raising a daughter like that.  We've made some changes in our approaches with her and I swear it has made all the difference in the world.  Her confidence has soared.  Her ability to let things go and her ability to express herself have increased exponentially.  I think she is pretty much perfect.

My little AJ.  What an absolutely perfect "bookend" to our family.  I'm pretty sure she has all of the best traits of the other three kids in her tiny little body.  She is curious and social and bright like Bo was.  She is precocious and sassy and very clearly has a lot more going on in her head than she can articulate, like Avee.  She is sweet and affectionate and knows how to charm people like Danyo.  J and I are enjoying her so much and think pretty much everything she does is cute or funny.  She loves to sing, but only sometimes likes to be sung to.  She will shut you up fast and fiercely if she doesn't want you singing.  Her favorite songs are Twinkle Twinkle, ABC's, and "Barney".  She is hilarious singing them.  She was watching a show the other day and they sang Twinkle Twinkle about twice as fast as we usually do and listening to her scrambling to sing along with them was pretty entertaining.

I already ran out of steam. I'm determined to be back though.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May!

It's so beautiful outside right now, I love how the sunshine and light breeze make everything feel right.

So, I'm finishing up school. It has been an amazing ride.  I feel like a very different person than the one who started almost 2 and a half years ago.  There were some dark times.  There were some of the most beautiful moments of my life.  There are connections that have been made that have changed me.  There have been lots of tears and a lot of laughing.  Someday, I hope to articulate the changes in me because it's been a beautiful journey, but I don't have the words today.

This morning I had a couple of moments, with both Bo and Avee seperately, where I kind of stepped back and saw them as the little individuals they have become.  Not babies.  Not entirely mine.  And still so unbelievably perfect.  With Avee it was when she first woke up and I asked her if she was allowed to wear tanktops to school.  She said they had to be at least an inch wide, and spaghetti straps weren't allowed.  But that she saw girls wearing stuff that weren't necessarily spaghetti straps "technically" but definitely weren't quite an inch wide.  It seems almost silly recounting it, but I saw this smart little girl using words and making references to things I didn't know she knew, or don't know when she learned.  Later, Bo stood at the bottom of the stairs telling me about a dream he had before he went up to get his shoes.  He looked so tall.  I said, "You look like you grew a foot overnight!"  He grinned proudly.  It's getting more rare to get a pure and joyful response out of him like that.  I loved it.  And what happened to my little boy who couldn't say his r's, who greeted passersby in the buff, who sniffed the back of people's necks when he passed them, who practiced counting to 100 for 3 weeks straight?  I do love who he's become.

Speaking of who he's become....that boy has an excellent sense of humor.  It is so delightful for me to watch it develop into something J and I enjoy instead of endure.  Yesterday while I was making dinner he started telling me about a picture of a dog he drew.  Lately he's taken to acting goofy when he talks, and sometimes he's just talking nonsense and I don't pay much attention.  He was saying, "I drew a dog.  It was big.  It had a collar. Yep, there was a collar. And a nose. And some ears. Yeah, yeah, he had ears."  Do you see why I don't pay much attention?  Then he said, "And I drew some ear holes."  I turned and said, "Now I know you are making this up, you didn't draw any ear holes."  He said he had and described to me what an ear hole was.  I said, "I know what they are, I just don't think you drew them on a dog."  Instead of arguing more with me as he could of (because apparently he DID draw them) he said, "Mom, everyone has ear holes, it's nothing to be embarrassed about."  I burst out laughing.  This statement is close on the heels of getting "the talk" at school. It is fresh on his mind.  I guess because he wasn't sitting there painfully alone getting the information from his father, he feels more comfortable talking about it.  And talk about it he does!  I love it.

So, we are leaving Iowa at the end of July.  I am filled with sadness at the prospect.  In fact, I soothe myself by saying we'll come back.  We aren't selling our house, so it really is an option.  I know I'll love North Carolina.  Probably I won't want to leave.  But the relationships we've developed here, they are wonderful.  We've gotten to associate with so many awesome people.  It helps that we are awesome too, but still.  We are so, SO excited that J got into PA school.  We learned pretty much after he'd applied, so many things about the process we didn't know.  First, applying in April increases your chances of acceptance by like two fold.  We got everything submitted by September 1st.  We take "deadline" very seriously.  I am pretty sure that reason alone is why he didn't get into at least two of the schools we applied to.  Secondly, people typically apply for 2-3 years trying to get in.  These programs have 2,000 applying for 35-50 spots.  There's no way dozens and dozens of very qualified candidates don't get turned away.  So for J to get in on the first round is so cool and of course makes me feel very proud of my smart and socially skilled husband.  Getting in to a North Carolina school is just an added bonus.

The way I feel right now reminds me of a card my mom gave me when I turned 25.  I was devestated when I turned 25.  I know, right?  I had graduated from college, I was moving to a new city where I knew no one, and I was single.  I honestly can't think of anything more difficult to deal with in life. Sheesh.  On my 25th birthday I was in Missouri in between graduating from Utah State and moving to St. Louis.  (It's also the summuh I met my lovuh!)  I locked myself in my childhood bedroom and cried and mourned the loss of my youth.  It was pathetic.  A dozen people could have slapped me and told me to grow up and would have been well within their rights.  But I have surrounded myself with kind and somewhat indulgent people.

My mom slid my birthday card under the door.  Inside was a $20 and a $5.  See? Turning 25 isn't all bad!  She had written some sweet things about me and about things I had accomplished and then wrote, "I know you are at a crossroad right now and I know it feels difficult.  Life doesn't get easier, but it gets better."  I knew at least that my mom was wise, and honest.  So I trusted her---but I certainly didn't understand how "not easy" could make room for "better".  I so get it.  I've experienced some really difficult things.  I've watched others around me experience really difficult things.  I have also never been happier in my life.  Part of that happiness is knowing it won't always feel this way, but also knowing it will come back---after it doesn't feel this way. 

I also know that I have the most incredible person at my side, loving supporting, pushing, encouraging, and navigating with me.  I am always hesitant to post my thoughts about J publicly because I feel like people who do that either feel like they have something to prove or are trying to convince themselves.  Of course, to make it not be all about J, I manage to be proud of myself.  I'm incredibly proud that 26 year old Nobody had the sense to see what a gold mine she had, and be successful in convincing him to marry me. There's no way I could have known the extent of his awesomeness, but each month, each year, it has become more and more evident.  He is amazing.  And those incredibly cute kids have 50% of his DNA.  At least, that's what he tells them all the time.

Well, this is kind of a stream of consciousness post. Free therapy!

Speaking of therapy....I'll tell you what, ending therapy with my clients is haaaaaaaaaaard.  I had a total and complete meltdown in my supervisor's office a couple of weeks ago.  She has this uncanny ability to hone right in on the heart of a problem and I wasn't entirely aware of the emotional difficulty I was having with it all.  So, yeah, that was fun.  I am going to be that counselor that ignores all the rules about making client's independent and helping them help themselves and ultimately not need a counselor.  I will make them mine forever.  "He's so fluffy I'm gonna die".  That's how I just said that.

I guess I'm done. Word to each of your respective mothers.

Monday, February 25, 2013

One Year & One Day

I made it through the one year anniversary of my Mom's death with no tears.  I wasn't striving for that (heaven knows I've learned the value of tears in this last year!), but it was such a good, positive day, focusing on things we love and miss.

Today, I sit at "work" (my internship site) and I can't seem to keep the tears from streaming. Not entirely sure why now, but I'm just going with it.

I post on FB, so then I tend to think that's enough, but I'll post about it again.  We put messages in balloons and sent them off yesterday.  I loved it, it felt like I was communicating with my mom in some way, and the kids loved it.  Avee wrote for one of her messages, "What's it like up there?"  She watched my face closely as I read what she wrote.  She was prepared for me to think it was funny, but I could see in her face it was more than that.  I smiled and told her, "I love that Avee" and I watched her own the thought.  She was ready to disregard it as silly if I laughed.  I see so much of me in her.

Bo wrote, "I think about you all the time" which did my heart good to see.  I do too.  And sometimes I feel like it's just me.  Sometimes selfishly, I forget how big of a role she played in their lives too.

My sister and I were talking yesterday about how it still doesn't feel real.  I thought I felt that way because I haven't lived near her for so many years; but my sister who never lived more than 5 blocks away her whole life, feels the same.  I guess that's what happens when you're heart and soul are larger than life and you live on so vibrantly in the lives of other.  Yesterday I thought a lot about if I'm living that kind of life.

One of the things about my mom being gone that consistently stings is not being able to share things with her.  My heartaches, my victories, my struggles, my children....

I had a day a couple of weeks ago when I got some bad news and I couldn't wait to get off the phone to call my mom and talk to her about it.  I hung up and immediately started to dial her.  That was awful.  I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and I was gasping for air for the next two or three hours.  I called my cousin sobbing.  I hadn't talked to her for a few months so I'm sure that was a really fun phone call for her.  Talking to people in those moments who know just how deep the void is, is really helpful.

Anyway, I thought I'd document some of those things I'd like to tell her.  The thing about telling my mom was, I was never bragging, never having a pity party, never stupid, never so wrong, never alone.  Even if I was having a pity pary or being stupid, she didn't call it that. 

J and I have navigated some difficult roads the past couple of years and we are good.  I'm thinking less that I am someone who doesn't deserve him and recognizing more what an incredibly good team we make.  I definitely think I scored a million times over, marrying him.  But so did he, and I love seeing that play out in our lives. 

I can hear my mom say, "Oh Angela, he is just darling. He's a good father, he's your friend, he cares about people, he's so sweet to me...don't you ever think for a minute he isn't wonderful.  He is."
I've learned so much about myself in this last year that it blows my mind sometimes.  I think I finally have something to write a book about! :)  I love what I've learned.  I've loved learning how weaknesses don't lessen you, they make you real and give you something to work for.  I've learned that vulnerability is attractive. It's desireable.  In my opinion it's a form of perfection.  When I can get past my own belief that no one should see all of who I am, weak, strong, scared, confident, lonely, loved, ambitious, lazy, angry, calm, doubting, sure.... the doors it opens are so fulfilling.  I've had experiences in the last several months where I had to just kind of hang up my fears of rejection and plunge right through a door of uncertainty.  All the things I've done to protect myself, were protecting me from nothing.  They were actually limiting me.

I don't even know if I can articulate these thoughts concisely.  I have lived a long life of not letting myself be vulnerable, constructing exactly what I thought people should see.  Peeling away those layers of self-imposed judgment has lightened my load.  Instead of focusing energy on what I think people should see and know, I am able to focus my energies on taking things in, experiencing more fully, simply loving more. I. LOVE. It.

I can hear my mom say, "This is so WONDERFUL. You have always had the courage and strength to do things I could never do."

AJ is an angel.  I look at her and think we've made perfection.  For the fourth time. :)  She is smart and funny and tenacious and even-tempered and opinionated and a "very communicative non-verbal".  That is what they called her at the hospital in November.  The other day J was reading to Bo on the couch and snapped a couple of times at the other kids to be quiet so he could read. AJ was puttering around humming/babbling to herself.  She got kind of loud, but how do you tell a baby to be quiet when it's so darn cute?  So J just read a little louder.  AJ also got louder.  He tried going a little louder without making any fuss about it.  Soon, AJ was full on yelling her baby babble.  It seemed so hilariously intentional but it just wasn't.  Although J was probably annoyed that he couldn't simply read in peace, it was too funny not to laugh.

Sometimes I pull AJ to me and smoosh on her face and cover her neck in kisses like you would.  I mourn that she won't know personally the greatness, the strength of character that she comes from.  I ache that she won't get the lipstick reminder of your constant love.  I try to watch her through different eyes, just to see what you would tell me about her.  You always saw unique things about all of our children. I love your view of them. 

I can hear my mom say, "She is soooooooo darling.  All of your kids are--such perfect little personalities, all so unique!"

I love this program I am in.  I never could have known what it would do to me, to my life.  I can't believe I'm almost done.  I am eager to be at home with my children and have some semblance of control over my schedule again.  I am anxious to have those letters behind my name and the accomplishment of a very big goal.  I am so proud to being doing this and to have accomplished this.  But I also never want some of it to end.  I am in a very nuturing, "mistakes are expected" environment with some really, REALLY incredible people surrounding me.  I could live like this forever!  But, I'm paying for it in money and time, so there will definitely be perks to it ending.

I can hear my mom say, "It's nice to have this experience, but life just has to move on, doesn't it?"

I remember starting this program 2 years ago and looking around the room at my classmates, feeling like an outsider, knowing I would never connect with any of them.  My classmates rallied around me when AJ was in the hospital for a week and sent love, support, balloons, cards, cookies, phone calls and messages.  Who are these people I was sure I'd never connect with?  One always has my back.  When you died, she was there. When the road was too hard, she pushed me through what had to be done.  When I was withdrawing, she called me on it.  I didn't even know she was doing it when she was. That's how connected we are.  Another hears what I say and shows me regularly I matter. Not because she's trying, just because that's how she loves.  She makes me feel smart, connected, funny, and can make me laugh until I cry. You know that's not easy.  It's amazing how you can feel so "complete" with the relationships you have and then others come along and remind you that you aren't. 

I can hear my mom say, "Oh you've made friends wherever you are, I can't believe you ever thought this would be different.  I just can't get over what wonderful people ALL of your friends are! Who's that little one that...."

All of my friends are "little ones", just by comparison. :)

I wrote an essay for a contest with the American Counseling Association.  I never really put myself out there to be judged. If you don't put yourself out there, you don't ever have to face rejection.  I have become a master of avoiding even perceived rejection.  I definitely didn't think I'd win anything, but I also knew I had nothing to lose.  Winners get a free registration to the conference in March. I must admit, that was a strong motivator because I wouldn't be able to afford going otherwise, and all of my friends were going this year.  Well I got runner up!  At first I thought that was honorable mention, which is fine, it's still something! But then I found out there was a winner, and then 4 runners up, and I was one of them!  That felt good.  I was one of the top five out of nearly 300 essays.  Funny thing is, even after winning I felt myself slip into what my counselor calls "the imposter syndrome".  I immediately began thinking how I "fooled" everyone and it really wasn't great, and how all the other submissions must have been REALLY bad if I won....
It's so crazy that I do that to myself.  I am a good writer. I wrote something that enough people liked that it got selected.  I am going to own it. 

I can hear my mom say, "I can't believe you doubted your writing ability, I could read what you write all, all day!  Don't let it go to your head so you start writing poopy because you don't have to try! Hahaha, I know you wouldn't.  Does that mean you're going to the conference? Are you going to be leaving those babies?  It's hard on them Angela, don't think it isn't.  They need their mom.  I remember when I went to Boston...."

Bo submitted a science fair project the day it was due.  I happily took him to Hobby Lobby and let him pick up the stuff he needed.  I even felt proud of his initiative to get it done!  Then I learned the actual fair was the next day.  He was going to show up at the fair, with a project.  I knew it didn't work that way so I started asking questions.  He produced a permission slip that he said he could take with him the day of. It said, "Please sign and return no later than January 11th."  It was February 6th.  I lectured Bo pretty exstensively.  Unpaid car payments get cars repoed.  Unpaid mortgages get houses taken.  He was given instructions with a deadline and he's not an exception to the rule.

The next morning he woke up with a rehearsed speech for his science teacher, taking responsibility for his slackerliness, and asking permission to still be allowed to participate.  It was a humble and kind of darling "speech" he had memorized the night before, before falling asleep.

His teacher said yes.  Of course I was happy that he didn't have to be disappointed, I can't help but feel that.  But I was also a little annoyed that he wasn't getting told no.  I felt like it would be a good natural consequence to help him increase responsibility.  Oh well.

He came home three days after the fair grinning like a smug little turkey.  His project won.  This victory wasn't lost on him either.  I had to just laugh it off.  I guess he'll learn responsibility the hard way, somewhere else.

I can hear my mom laughing, "Oh dear", she'd say as she laughed, "You'll be dealing with a whole 'nother set of challenges with this one!  You and J are the perfect parents for him though.  I think about what a team you and J make and whoooooooeeeeee, you two pack a punch!"

We're waiting to see if J will get into PA school this year.  I hate being in limbo like this.  We met a guy who tried for 3 years to get into PA school and finally gave up and started another program.  That kind of scared the bajeebies out of J.  But, I know things will work out, even if not on the time frame we'd like.  I just hate the waiting.

I can hear my mom, "Meeeeeee too! Ach! I hate waiting and worrying. You're better than me though, I don't sleep when I have to wait and worry---and then everything gets ugly really fast!"

Hmmm, I feel better already!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Shame's Eviction Notice

I was listening to BrenĂ© Brown talking about shame and had a flood of thoughts and emotion suddenly fill me.  I think about how much I've let shame guide my thinking, make my decisions.  I thought back on my first real experience of recognizing the shame.

I was 25 years old.  Yeah, I had been alive a quarter of a century before I recognized even an ounce of shame in myself.  I know I was oblivious to it before because I worked with a professor, very closely, in my undergraduate program, researching guilt and shame. I am a published Jr Author on an article about shame but none of it ever applied to me.

I was driving from Saint Louis to Kansas City over Labor Day weekend and one of my friends, a coworker, was making the trip with me.  We were about 15-20 minutes from my childhood home when my friend said, "So, what did your dad do for a living?"  I felt the familiar feeling of my heart sort of skipping a beat, my face flushing (with shame, unbeknownst to me though!) and my mind racing for what answer I would give this time.  The memory of 7-year-old Nobody filled my mind, completing school test forms and coming to the line "Father's Occupation _______".  I'd pause over that blank for 3-4 times longer than any other.  Should I leave it blank?  Should I lie?  Should I tell a half-truth?  I was certain any one of those would get me "caught" and I've have some 'splaining to do.  Most of the time I settled for "half-truth" and would write "Self-employed" or "Construction".  My dad didn't work for anyone else, so if he worked, it was "self-employed" and he could build, rewire, plumb, repair anything. So, I could justify that answer, if anyone red-flagged it.  I was sure one day I would get caught.

So here I was, 25 years old, college graduate, working at a law firm, enjoying a lot of personal accomplishment and success in life.  What my father did for a living smacked me down to a helpless, hopeless, useless, nothing, with everything to hide.  I decided in that moment, with that friend, "screw it, I'm diving in" and answered, "Gosh, I...I've always been so embarrassed to admit it but my dad didn't really work to support our family. He'd do odd jobs now and then, but we never had money or any real type of income growing up."  I felt like I had just vomited, been exorcised, ran a marathon, and had an un-anesthetized c-section of sextuplets.  I sat there depleted, vulnerable, scared.  What did I expect? I think I expected her to look me up and down, sneer at me and say, "You're pathetic, why are we friends?"

I had spent year after year after year protecting myself from that response.  I was really good at keeping myself safe.  From everyone but myself.

My friend turned to me, seemed to register surprise at my obvious emotional response to "coming clean" and said almost off-handedly, "Why on earth would you be embarrassed about decisions your father made that you had no control over?"

It was as though the heavens parted and a thousand angels descended singing hallelujah and the weight of all that shame I had carried and all the guilt from hiding my shame was revealed for the uselessness that it was. There was no place for it in me anymore.  It was an epiphany if ever there were one.

This comment spiraled my thoughts over the next several weeks, even months, back to my life experiences and conversations I'd had.  I thought of ways I'd behaved, things I'd learned, and how differently they looked now, looking back with my new found knowledge.

I'd like to say this experience started me on a track of being free from shame, but it didn't.  It's just been in the last year, other life experiences that have opened up that door again.  I am seeing things so differently and realizing the burden I have carried for so many years as I've felt shame that wasn't mine to feel, and carried it, at great emotional expense, into relationships and into place that it had no place being.

As I'm listening to BrenĂ© Brown speak, I hear her say, that if you can push past the shame that says you aren't good enough and "who do you think you are" and carry on, when you look up, 99% of the time, the critic you see looking down on you----is you.

I'm ready to rid myself of the shame I don't need or deserve. It has done nothing good for me.  It has held me back from successes I would enjoy. It has inhibited me from relationships I could more fully enjoy.  It has clouded my judgment, shriveled my confidence, tainted my view of others.

I'm ready to turn that critic looking down on me into my biggest fan. Feel free to join me.  You're invited.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My October Surprise. Heh, Not Really

I'm writing blog posts in my head. That's how I know I'm overdue.  'Cept, the format is all changed up and I don't know what I'm doing anymore.  I think old people who refuse to learn the internet or get cell phones are actually on to something. I feel like you need a PhD to stay on top of all the changes in technology.

I am enjoying where my kids are at in life.  I really wish life was a little more slowed down for me so I could enjoy them more and get a handle on some things, but on the other hand, I'm so excited to be earning a Masters degree, and learning what I am learning.  My experience in this program is turning out to be life-changing and while that makes it very difficult for me, I am loving the benefits of my hard work and actually even love the hard work. Most days. Also, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I have so much to learn before I reach that light, but it's nice to see an end to this crazy schedule.

Presently we are waiting to hear from PA schools for J.  We have a good backup plan if he doesn't get in this round.  We have no idea what kinds of things hold more weight than others. He's pretty well-rounded in all the requirements and above average in most, but we'll see!  It's kind of exciting to both be working toward higher degrees and positive changes in our lives.  J has enjoyed the "science-y" classes he's had to take, and they've been a challenge as well.  Between him regularly telling me things like the breakdown of DNA or the make up of other molecules and Bo incessantly talking about the presidential race, I spend a lot of time feeling particularly brilliant in my own home.  It's all good. They don't know how to reflect meaning like a boss, so there!

I feel like AJ has gotten the shaft on life documentation.  So naturally, I'll need to make up for that. Brace yourself, here come the baby stories. I will keep the poop and spit up stories to a minimum. Maybe.

She is ten months now. I just noticed within the last week or two, her actively trying to engage and initiate "conversation" or play. I love seeing all the little developmental things...well, develop!  We taught her the sign for "milk" when she was 6 months old. I did it to work up to when she was 9-10 months and she could then say it back (what the books say to do).  She started using it within a week.  I was shocked, but it was awesome to have that communication barrier removed so early.  Only problem is, she now will ONLY do that sign and it means whatever she wants it to.  Much like Bo's sign for "more" meant whatever he wanted, but mostly candy.

Today the neighbor girl came over and AJ was delighted to see her and immediately started moving her lips (without sound) and making hand motions that seemed to be a combination of "milk, more, and popcorn popping on the apricot tree".  She just really wanted to engage so she pulled out all the stops.

We have a four seasons room that we've dubbed the "fun room". It has toys, books, a computer, and a futon.  AJ has taught herself to climb up on the futon, which is terribly cute. Then she can alllllllllmost reach the computer which she tries desperately to do every 5 minutes.  She can reach a small shelf which for some reason makes her feel awesome.  She climbs up and yells, sings, tears things apart, and slaps wildly at the keyboard she can't quite reach.  She actually reminds me a lot of my nephew Thomas when she does this.  It's this tiny little human acting like king of the world that's so darling.

Since she's showed some interest in the toilet recently, we've started potty training. It hasn't really worked out well, but I KNOW she's interested because she's constantly crawling to the toilet and trying to eat toilet paper.

Danyo is enjoying an "extra year" at home with us.  I've noticed when I tell people "yes he's five but we kept him out a year" that a lot of them kind of try to make me feel better about having a stupid five year old.  It's really kind of sweet, but it's also funny. I have no embarrassment about keeping Danyo out an extra year. I sometimes regret putting Bo in, even though academically if he was still in 3rd grade he'd probably be dying. Danyo is learning to schmooze even better, working at keeping his temper under control, and perpetually charming the socks off of all of us.  He's just so dang cute.  This morning he sat on the edge of my bed, hanging his head down dejectedly, with one arm wrapped around a giant teddy bear named Teddy (he gets ridiculously creative with his animals names, we have a "Beary" and a "Hoppy" and a "Chocolate Moosey") and his other hand clutching his blankie, "I just wanted to snuggle with you the whole night.  I just want to snuggle right now too."  How do you say no to that?  I don't. He is my kryptonite. In more ways than one.

One of the very cute and sweet things I've noticed Avee doing lately...well, a little background first.  My schedule is ridiculous right now. I'm gone a lot but also come and go a lot.  Sometimes I'll rush home for a stolen 45 minutes to snuggle the baby and nurse her and hear about the kids' days.  Or I'll have a more lax day with appointments and obligations scattered throughout the day.  Usually when I have to get to class, I'm rushing because I think I can travel in the blink of an eye and that there's never any traffic to contend with, so I never budget enough time.  The last few times I've been rushing to get out the door, Avee has filled my water bottle with ice water, put my bag by the door, and last week, grabbed a wonton off the table for me to eat, since I didn't have time to eat dinner with the family.  It's so nurturing and thoughtful and pro-active.  There is so much about this girl that I adore.  I think both J and I just kind of stand back in wonderment that she is ours. I know a lot of people get to enjoy this feeling with their children. It's a good feeling.

I'm learning to not harp on Bo so much. It's so crazy, even though I KNOW it's not helpful or could be damaging, and that I have more unrealistic expectations of him because he's my oldest, I sometimes simply can't stop myself.  I've been trying really hard to be conscious of this and reign it in a bit.  His latest is to say, "I thought you said..." about EVERYTHING and it will be what he thought I should have said, or what he hoped I'd said, or what his lack of attention led him to do and he fills in the blank. It drives me NUTS.  I should just let it go and say, "no, what I actually said was..." but instead I just want to whack him over the head with a plastic bat. He's developing an even better sense of humor and that's fun to watch. He watches these goofy sketches on Youtube, usually grown men acting goofy in public, and then he imitates them. Like this:  I don't have the patience to watch the videos myself, but when he imitates them, it almost always makes me laugh out loud.  He's obsessed with the election and even when playing with AJ he says things like, "Hi sweet baby, do you wanna talk about the financial crisis, huh sweet baby, huh?"  It's pretty entertaining. He's only kind of trying to be funny, mostly he's just saying what's on his mind.

He has written letters to Ohio and Wisconsin to try and persuade them to vote for Romney.  If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you'll remember that last election the obsession was with Obama.  He has taken this obsession much further since his little mind is capable of understanding more.  His teacher has decided to let them have a mock election on the election day and Bo has taken it upon himself to convince the Obama people to vote Romney and address their concerns one by one.  He's also determined he'll give a speech on election day, his teacher doesn't know this yet.

Excerpt from his letter to the states....oh dear, I just read it. I can't take an excerpt, it's too funny to slice up.

Dear citizens of the following states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, And Wisconsin
If Gov. Mitt Romney wins the election in November 2012, we will have lower taxes, and build the keystone pipeline. The keystone pipeline is a pipe that will start in Canada and end in the U.S., and Canada putts oil through the pipeline and we buy it, and if we don’t build this pipeline they will just build a pipe into the Atlantic ocean, and another countries BOATS will pick it up and we will just have to drill it on our own. And yes we all know what lower taxes means. But why have we had higher taxes under the Obama administration?  Well you’re probably thinking- well NO we HAVE’NT had higher taxes. Well we’re kids and kids don’t pay taxes so that’s weird to say that taxes aren’t lower when YOU don’t PAY taxes. And don’t say that we should have higher taxes because you want to vote for Obama, that’s a bunch of baloney let’s just keep it simple and say  that taxes are bad and just leave it at that. So, the reason we have had higher taxes is because WE KEEP ON PRINTING MONEY!!!! Well you’re’ looking at me like- what? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Well let me take it apart for you, the more money you print, the less money is worth. Now you think I’m talking even crazier! Well think of it as golden rocks.  Imagine there are 4 golden rocks in the world. Would those 4 golden rocks be rare? Now imagine there is a factory that makes golden rocks and gives them out to people. Now the factory made 4 MILLION more rocks. Would those rocks be rare anymore? Same with money, the more money we print, the less it’s worth, like those golden rocks. Now you probably understand that its stupid thinking that barrack Obama has been printing money so WE could have MORE money. So, let’s get to the higher taxes part. If we are printing our sweet precious money, but actually are killing our sweet precious money, the dollar gets more worthless and worthless and worthless. And remember WE have to pay taxes to the federal government, which buys STUFF, if the dollar is getting worthless to them, and then WE have to pay more money to THEM because THEY need more MONEY to run our country. So if the dollar isn’t that worthless, then we don’t have to pay more money to them, we’re paying the same amount of money as if the dollar IS worthless. So when barrack Obama say’s ‘I want higher taxes’, he means ‘I’ve been printing billions and billions of dollars, and I need higher taxes so I can run our country.’ Oh, and one more thing-

I’m ben and I study politics.
Vote for mitt Romney.

I love that the kid knows about inflation and the Keystone pipeline better than most adults, and yet can't seem to remember that first names are capitalized. 

Oh, I almost forgot my most favorite quote of the week. "Dad, can you fact check my homework?"
J is so much better about keeping a straight face than I am. Unless it's addressing four-year-old Avee's act of stealing a bean bag from her preschool by way of her underwear. Then he's useless.

Well, this is probably already much too long for most of my closest friends to read. I feel like I should include some pictures or something.  I'll go round some up.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Swearing, Take 3

This afternoon I overheard Danyo say, "Sweet Jesus!"  I quickly reprimanded him. We've been talking to him a LOT this week about what's appropriate to say and what's not.  I used all three of his names and said pretty sharply, "I don't ever want to hear that again, doyouunderstandme!?"  He nodded as he stood still.  I saw a little sadness cross his face. I felt bad for speaking so harshly, sometimes he just gets sensitive to that kind of thing. Other times---not so much.  Then he looked up at me, kind of perplexed and said, "But I thought it was funny?"  I felt pretty crummy doing that to my 5 year old. I leaned down and told him I was sorry for yelling at him so sharply, especially if he thought it was funny, but that I didn't really want him saying things like that. He agreed and ran off to play.

As it turns out....
The other night while I was at class, Avee put dish soap in the dishwasher instead of detergent, and it bubbled out all over the place. Everyone surrounded the machine, staring at the bubbles, and Danyo exclaimed, "Sweet Jesus!"  Apparently the timing was perfect and everyone laughed.  So, he was right. It was funny, once.

These moments tend to stop me in my tracks.  I get caught up in the correcting, corralling, coercing, that I forget to stop and recognize the sweet child that is getting the brunt of all my "mother of the year" actions.  I want to remember his face, and speak more softly, explain more readily, ask questions before getting loud.

In my defense, that boy has been trying out lots of colorful words for size this week.  The fact that he uses words we don't say around here, in perfect context, is both funny and troubling.  Good thing he's my third---we just sort of address it, expect to hear it a few more times while it runs it course, and carry on.  It doesn't help to have the older two giggling hysterically though.

I've said more than once, it's rare that J is funny "on his own".  Most of the time he makes me laugh, he's quoting a movie.  The other day, we were addressing Danyo's choice of words that particular day. He had exclaimed, "Holy sh__" while playing on the itouch, and "Shut the hell up" to Avee, totally casually because she was talking louder than he thought she should.  I am shamelessly airing our dirty laundry. Mostly because I can. Also because it's not really ours. He hasn't heard those words from us.  Pretty sure it's Paper Mario videos on Youtube thankyouverymuch. I put the kabosh on that!

Anyway, as we are sitting across from sweet little Danyo, we tell him there are words we just don't use.  He's listening and seems readily convinced, and I think we are winding down when I hear J say, "So, there are words we just don't say, and those words are...."  It took me long enough for it to register that J paused for a long time and couldn't believe I hadn't already burst out laughing.  J did a funny and I missed it!  I am still proud though.